His voice was soft, gentle, and hesitant, almost like he was afraid to say my name. I knew who it was before I even turned around, mostly basing on the expression of my cousin Lissa. I made a face — it was involuntary, of course. I spotted him the moment they removed my blindfold for my surprise farewell party, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to talk to him.
But who’s really prepared for these things anyway? That’s one thing you learn after having a concussion — you don’t really prepare for anything in life.
For someone who’s ignored me a lot for the past two months, Lissa suddenly Miss Obvious — she said something about going to the bathroom for a while so she wouldn’t interfere, and how was that for being subtle? I rolled my eyes at her before I turned around. Mark, my best friend, stood there, hands in his pocket, looking at me with those usually cheerful eyes that looked nothing but.
“Hi Mark,” I said, not really knowing if I should smile or not. The last time I talked to him was here in the same rooftop, on the night of my accident. It was kind of fuzzy, but I could remember some words spoken that I wasn’t sure was real. All I know was it was raining then, and then I slipped and fell and the next thing I know I was in the hospital. I didn’t see him while I was in the hospital, but Meah told me he was there almost the entire time I was.
“Hi,” he replied softly.
Silence. As silent as it could get with music playing and people laughing around us, that is. Mark looked at me and then away, shifted on his feet and then back at me. Seeing him like that — sad, uncertain — was kind of unnerving. Mark has always been the cheerful, confident guy that I had learned to like, and possibly even love. Suffice to say my heart broke when I saw him like that, and it sounds a bit cliche, but it’s true.
“How are you?” He finally asked.
“I’m fine,” I answered, almost automatically. How many times have I been asked that question? I looked at Mark who had raised an eyebrow at me and I managed a laugh. “Well, my head’s not hurting anymore and I’m pretty sure I can still remember everyone here, so, I guess I’m fine.”
Well at least that comment made him smile. He was about to open his mouth to speak, but a couple of my cousins walked to the snacks table where we stood, and he shut his mouth, waiting for them to leave. I decided that I couldn’t wait, so I reached for his hand and pulled him to a quiet corner of the rooftop.
Ironically, we ended up at where we had our talk the night I had my accident, the one where everything went…well, out of control. I moved to let go of his hand, but not without his running his fingers on my palm before letting it drop down beside him. It was a subtle move, but I felt it, his fingers calloused, from the years he had been playing the guitar.
“So.” I said, leaning on the wall behind me. He leaned beside me, his shoulder barely touching mine.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” Mark said, his voice soft once again. “You really got me worried there, you know.”
“Well, you know me, I’m a fighter,” I said, punching him affectionately on the arm. He laughed. I was about to tell him that the only reason I got a concussion was because of what he told me that night, but I shut my mouth. As much as I’m glad we’re talking, and that I know I couldn’t prepare for everything, that’s one thing I’m not so sure I could talk about yet.
Silence again. I watched some of my cousins run out of the bathroom and straight to the pool, making a huge splash that wet the people dancing around it. There were groans, but they were good-natured ones, and everyone resumed partying. I saw Meah at the food table with Lyka, and I was glad to see she was eating again. Lissa was at the music table with Andrew, arguing about something like they always do. Faith was sitting with her boyfriend, Martin, and Kate ran around the place, taking photos of everyone. These are the people I wouldn’t be seeing for a year or more. Them and this guy standing beside me, eyes not on the people but on me.
“When are you leaving?” he asked, as if reading my mind. Was that another sad note in his voice?
“This weekend,” I replied, avoiding his gaze. It was my decision to go to Australia to be with my parents for while, to take a break from the busy life I had made. I would be there for a year minimum, and everyone I know were supportive of my move. All except for Mark.
“Oh,” he said then paused. “What time?”
He paused again. I looked at him sideways, wondering if I speak first because there was a question burning in me that I wanted to ask.
Mark took a deep breath and finally spoke. “So…is it okay if I go there? At the airport? When you leave?”
It was exactly what I wanted to ask. He doesn’t have to be too persistent for me to say yes to that.